The offseason is in full swing here at The Falcoholic, which means our Roster Review is well underway. If you missed Cory’s breakdown of QB from earlier in the week, here is the link. We now move on to RB/FB, which is arguably the most talented position group on the entire roster. Let’s take a closer look at the production of each player, and the prospects of the group heading into the 2018 offseason.
2017 Stats: 196 carries, 865 yards, 4.4 YPC, 7 TD. 36 receptions, 317 yards, 8.8 YPC, 1 TD.
While Freeman—and the offense as a whole—couldn’t replicate their incredible success from the 2016 season, he still turned in a very good 2017 campaign. Averaging 4.4 YPC as the team’s lead back and also contributing 36 catches, Freeman was once again the primary workhorse of the offense. His elusive and physical running style combined with his excellent vision make him an electric playmaker in both the running and passing games. Although Freeman struggled a bit in the playoffs, he remains one of the NFL’s best all-around RBs.
2017 Stats: 156 carries, 628 yards, 4.0 YPC, 5 TD. 27 receptions, 299 yards, 11.1 YPC, 3 TD.
Coleman had a very effective year as the Falcons’ RB2 in 2017 despite a confusing usage pattern by new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. While he wasn’t as efficient on the ground as Freeman, Coleman contributed several big plays and routinely showcased his impressive receiving ability. He could’ve had a better year statistically, but for inexplicable reasons Sarkisian seemed to erase his receiving role from the gameplan throughout the middle part of the season. Coleman is one of the most dynamic weapons on the team and should have a bigger role going forward.
2017 Stats: 30 carries, 129 yards, 4.3 YPC. 3 receptions, 14 yards, 4.7 YPC.
After fending off challengers in two straight offseasons (Brandon Wilds last year and Brian Hill this preseason), Ward once again retained his role as the RB3 in Atlanta. Despite seeing a very small workload behind the dynamic duo of Freeman and Coleman, Ward proved that he was capable of stepping in and contributing when called upon. He’s not a gifted athlete, but Ward possesses a similar running style to Freeman and is a solid reserve/rotational RB.
2017 Stats: 2 carries, 8 yards, 4.0 YPC. 2 receptions, 20 yards, 10.0 YPC.
After the Falcons opted not to re-sign Pro Bowl FB Patrick DiMarco last preseason, the team instead brought in veteran Derrick Coleman to take over the job on the cheap. There was a pretty substantial drop-off in play, as Coleman was a solid but unspectacular addition to the offense in his first season. He’s a decent blocker, but doesn’t offer any of the playmaking ability that DiMarco possessed. Derrick Coleman is a great story and a passable player, but is an obvious candidate for an upgrade in 2018.
Arguably the strongest position on the team in 2017, the RB & FB group will be mostly unchanged heading into 2018. Freeman and Tevin Coleman are both under contract next season, with Terron Ward a RFA. Derrick Coleman is a free agent, and if any change is going to be made in this position group, he appears to be the obvious choice to replace. Whether the Falcons elect to sign another veteran or bring in a late draft pick or UDFA, the team will almost certainly bring in some sort of competition for FB.
The duo of Freeman and Coleman is one of the things that makes this offense special. Atlanta needs Steve Sarkisian to realize this and take advantage of these two RBs the way Shanahan did, particularly in the receiving game. Where things get interesting, however, is 2019—when Tevin Coleman becomes a free agent. We’ve heard buzz about the Falcons wanting to re-sign Coleman, but that will be difficult to pull off financially —particularly with the other players Atlanta must sign in the coming years. With the cap continuing to increase, however, anything is theoretically possible.
The Falcons have apparently already shown some interest in RB prospects this offseason. With the potential that 2018 could be Coleman’s final season in Atlanta, that makes a lot of sense. It’ll be very difficult to replicate his unique blend of speed, size, and power, however. Let’s hope that the team really utilizes their RBs to their fullest potential in 2018, as it might be the last chance they have with their “dynamic duo”.
What are your thoughts on the Falcons’ RB & FB group? Any players you’d like to see replaced in 2018, or are you satisfied with the current configuration?